Meeting social-emotional needs of infants

Meeting social-emotional needs of infants

A major grant to LSI researcher Kathleen Baggett is supporting the first efforts in the country to train teachers in child-care centers to promote the social and emotional development of infants.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the project implements what decades of research have shown: infants whose social-emotional needs are unmet are less likely to be ready for school and more likely to have social-emotional problems throughout the life span.

Of special concern is the lack of adequately trained early child-care teachers coupled with growing numbers of young children with social-emotional problems, Baggett said. In fact, infants and toddlers are the fastest-growing group in child care.

“Intervening earlier is better than later,” Baggett said. “Waiting for children to fail means opportunities are lost to prevent early delays from becoming future disabilities.” Baggett, assistant research professor at the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project, and colleagues at KU, the Oregon Research Institute, Eugene, Ore. and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston are developing and field-testing a web-based training program where coaches in Kansas will work virtually with teachers in Kansas and Oregon. “Our web-based program will be developed with feedback from child- care stakeholders, including parents, and will allow us to test the feasibility of real-world implementation of the program in child-care centers,” Baggett said.

The project was preceded by a pilot study by Baggett and colleagues showing that in-home web-based training is effective in helping mothers improve the social and emotional development of their infants. That web-based program, Infant-Net, will be refined in the current study for child-care teachers.

“Quality is a huge concern in child-care centers today,” Baggett added. “The field desperately needs to implement training programs for those who work with the very youngest children in child care.”